Best things to do in Toronto
What is it? Close to 750,000 gallons of water a second hurtle over the largest falls in North America.
Why go? Take in the view from the top—the Table Rock site allows you to stand barely a meter from the edge of Horseshoe Falls—or get sweaty on one of the 300 km's of bike trails and self-guided cycling tours. You can also head into the falls themselves with the Journey Behind the Falls, descending 38 meters through solid rock in a lift to stand next to the curtain of water. If that still doesn’t grab your attention, take flight on a helicopter and soar over the falls.
What is it? Once the world’s tallest tower, this 553.33-meter (1,815.4-foot) structure is still super impressive.
Why go? It’s impossible to visit Toronto without seeing the CN Tower, mainly because its spire dominates the landscape. Take in the view from the LookOut Level at 346 meters (1,136 feet), walk on air on the Glass Floor at 342 meters (1,122 feet) and check out the views from the highest perch of all: the SkyPod at 447 meters (1,465 feet) above the city. If extreme thrills are your thing and the incredible height alone isn't enough to get your adrenaline pumping, then book onto one of the tower's ‘Edgewalks’, a full-circle, hands-free walk around the SkyPods outer ledge. Lean back, daredevils.
What is it? Go one-on-one against animated versions of today's greatest goalies at this museum dedicated to Canada's national pastime.
Why go? Hockey is more than a sport in Canada: It’s a national obsession. And even though they’re currently experiencing a 50-year Stanley Cup drought, the Toronto Maple Leafs still draw a crowd (albeit with a certain amount of mocking). Maybe if we cheer hard enough, Torontonians will get to see the Stanley Cup somewhere other than the Hockey Hall of Fame.
What is it? In 2017 alone, 8.2 million axes were thrown at these arenas.
Why go? Canada is not, contrary to the stereotype, a frozen tundra populated by igloos and lumberjacks. But, OK, yeah, we still enjoy our plaid and sometimes want to get it touch with our burly, rugged history. Learn to throw an axe with the Backyard Axe Throwing League, where you and your friends can enter a group tournament to see who has the chops to triumph.
What is it? The massive collection of cultural and historical items at this museum is unparalleled.
Why go? Toronto is full of museums, but the Royal Ontario Museum is the crown jewel. Visitors can peruse the permanent collection of 3,000 minerals and gems, extraordinary fossils, Roman antiquities and First Peoples art. The museum also hosts rotating exhibits on everything from Iris van Herpen's groundbreaking fashion to the role of architecture in the Holocaust.
What is it? Although many of the stories here may be exactly that – fictional – this spooky walk is enough to make even the most hardened horror-lover shudder.
Why go? This macabre walking tour is also a great way to acquaint yourself with the place’s nooks and crannies. A cloaked tour guide carrying a lantern will lead you to Toronto's spookiest spots, including haunted theatres and the Mackenzie House, supposedly one of the city's most active paranormal sites. Not worried about nightmares? Grab a ticket for a night-time seance, where the Victorian supernatural awaits you.
What is it? There's a generous helping of shops scattered across Toronto from the chichi designers at Eaton Centre to homegrown produce at St. Lawrence Market.
Why go? Go for a trip down to the St. Lawrence and you'll be taken on a rather impressive journey of market-based delights. Hungry? There's over 120 vendors peddling their wares, which means you can pick up anything from freshly baked bread to straight-outta-the-soil veggies. Even better? A famers' market hijacks the North market on Saturdays, and on Sundays, antique dealers tout a tantalizing range of trinkets that you never knew you needed. Grab your wallets, people.
What is it? The unexpected combination of Hungarian and Thai food at this restaurant is emblematic of Toronto's food scene.
Why go? Almost half the population of Toronto was born outside Canada, so it is entirely possible to take your tummy on a trip around the world without ever leaving the city limits. Head to Chinatown, Little India, Little Italy and more to stuff your face, or sample fusion cuisine at Hungary Thai. Where else could you order both wiener schnitzel and pad thai?
What is it? This brash 18th-century Gothic Revival castle—turret and all—stands out from the city's otherwise Victorian architecture.
Why go? Every city needs a castle. Designed by grandiloquent architect EJ Lennox for Sir Henry Pellat and finished in 1914, this ostentatious masterpiece includes marble floors in the stables and room after lavish room. Fair warning: You may wish you could live the lifestyle of the rich and famous after a tour.
What is it? North America’s only double-decker theatre complex puts on an impressive array of theatre.
Why go? Toronto bills itself as ‘North Broadway’, and with many touring companies coming through town, the city has plenty to offer drama lovers. There are theatres aplenty but two of the most popular are Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre and Young Centre for the Performing Arts—three stages in 19th-century tank houses in the Distillery District.
What is it? This theatre promotes experimental and queer productions.
Why go? If you want to catch a local production, head to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, which has put on alternative shows you can't find anywhere else for more than 40 years. You might also want to catch the yearly Toronto Fringe Festival, where many big names first got their start (The Drowsy Chaperone first tread the boards at Fringe before going on to win a Tony).
What is it? Previously known as Theatresports Toronto, this full-time improvisational theatre was a breeding ground for talents like Mike Myers and Colin Mochrie. Now at almost four decades old, this accessible and affordable venue is just as important now as ever.
Why go? Canada has produced some notable funny folks, and many got their start at Toronto’s Second City or Bad Dog Theatre Company. Think you’re the next Shrek? Sign up for one of the weekly drop-in improv classes!
What is it? The Entertainment District is one of the most concentrated party scenes in the world.
Why go? You'll mingle with upwards of 30,000 clubbers on any given Saturday night. Gastropub Bar Hop is a perennial favorite, thanks to its laid-back atmosphere and 36 craft beers on tap. If electronic music is your thing, check out Uniun, a trippy mix of vintage factory fixtures and LED displays that pulse to the beat. The slightly creepy ceramic skulls above the drinks bottles are an added bonus.
What is it? As the largest zoo in Canada, there are an impressive 450+ different species on show here and you can even become a keeper for a day.
Why go? After the departure of giant pandas Da Mao, Er Shun, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue to Calgary, the Toronto Zoo has a new extra-special addition: two endangered Amur tigers, Kira and Vasili. Animal lovers might want to pay a visit to the big cats—the largest species of tiger—when they return in summer 2018, then check out the three enormous Aldabra tortoises.
What is it? The historic concert halls are a real treat for the ears.
Why go? Toronto is one of Canada’s most bustling music scenes. Whether you want to check out the next Drake at one of the many live music spots around town or take in an aria with the Canadian Opera Company, there’s always something to hear. Two of the city's most storied venues—Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall—host the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
What is it? Canada’s premiere ballet company performs the full range of classics.
Why go? You'll see ballerinas and ballerinos (including Sonia Rodriguez, Greta Hodgkinson, Guillaume Côté and Xiao Nan Yu) who are truly at the top of their game. Past performances featured greats like Karen Kain, Rex Harrington and even Mikhail Baryshnikov (he defected in Canada). Their schedule is ever changing, but always includes the Nutcracker and loads of special programs for kids.
What is it? If rollercoasters are your thing, look no further than Toronto’s top amusement park.
Why go? Located just outside the city, Canada's Wonderland offers loads of rides, from the delicious drops of the Behemoth to the side-winding turns of the Mighty Canadian Minebuster. The park is only open during the warmer months—try going mid-week to beat the crowds.
What is it? In a city full of diverse neighborhoods, Kensington Market might be our favorite.
Why go? An eclectic and totally bohemian jumble of the weird and wonderful. Seek out charming vintage stores, record shops and chilled out cafes for coffee breaks. Quirky hipster hangouts and underground speakeasies more your thing? No worries, Kensington has long been an artists’ hub, a fact that's apparent from the counter-culture performance spaces and art galleries.
What is it? Formerly the home of the largest distillery in the world, now it’s a bustling pedestrian neighbourhood.
Why go? Where are some of the best pubs in Toronto hiding? The Distillery District. There's more than just local watering holes, too—the nabe is full of trendy shops, art galleries, top-notch restaurants and many, many patios. The developers maintained the industrial Victorian aesthetic, making it a fun place to wander, if a little more pre-packaged than other neighbourhoods.
What is it? As though you just entered a wormhole, transcend through time at this 19th-century village just outside of Toronto.
Why go? Black Creek Pioneer Village is a restored village (many of the buildings were moved from other sites or reconstructed on the original locations) inhabited by costumed historical re-enactors. Ever wanted to know how they dipped candles, churned butter or fought for temperance in 19th-century Canada? Black Creek Pioneer Village knows, and they’re telling!